Peterborough United collapsed in the second half to bow out of the FA Cup in dispiriting fashion at Middlesbrough today (January 5).
Posh edged the first-half of their third round tie against Championship opposition at the Riverside, but missed two good chances to take the lead.
And my how they paid the price for Ivan Toney’s generosity as Boro scored five times in the second half. Former Posh star Britt Assombalonga scored twice with George Friend, Lewis Wing and Ashley Fletcher also on target.
As expected Posh gave debuts to new on-loan defenders Daniel Lafferty and Ben White and both coped comfortably in a drab first-half.
White in particular looked comfortable on the ball playing on the right of a back three as Posh reverted to the 3-5-2 system last season failing at Barnsley on Boxing Day.
Boro fielded a positive-looking side spearheaded by former Posh favourite Assombalonga, but put little football together before they were booed off by the smattering of home fans in the Riverside at the break.
Indeed Posh missed the best chance of the half after the best piece of football seen in the entire 90 minutes.
Siriki Dembele started it by making an interception near his own penalty area. The ball was transferred accurately by Ryan Tafazolli, Alex Woodyard, Louis Reed, Mark O’Hara and finally by Joe Ward to Toney.
Toney left his marker on his backside by turning onto his left-foot, but with just 40 year-old goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopolous, who became Boro’s oldest ever player by starting the match, to beat he shot badly over the bar.
Toney also headed a decent free kick from left wing-back Lafferty over the bar, while Dembele shot over twice after rapid Posh breaks.
Posh enjoyed themselves down the right wing with Ward and Woodyard both sending dangerous crosses into the area that led to moments of anxiety for the home side. Tafazolli also headed an accurate Reed corner just wide of a post.
Boro’s best chances were spurned by Assombalonga’s poor control when clear of the Posh defence and by Gestede’s poor heading from two decent opportunities.
Posh ‘keeper Conor O’Malley was called into action just twice, once when Gestede headed straight at him and once from a corner which Friend tried to bundle past him from close range.
But all Posh’s good work in the first half was undone in four second-half minutes as Boro scored twice.
A poor clearance by Tafazolli was returned by Gestede and diverted onto the crossbar in the 47th minute enabling Assombalonga to head home into an empty net.
And two minutes later, after Woodyard had blocked a shot from substitute Wing, Ward was robbed trying to shield the ball out of play by Fletcher who fed Friend for a tap-in.
Posh were soon back to 4-4-2, but any forward progress was usually followed by a cynical foul which led to no punishment from Championship referee James Linington. Toney had two strikes at goal from set pieces, one held easily by the keeper and a second that didn’t beat the wall.
Wing then showed Posh players how to strike at goal after strolling forward unchallenged and netting from 25 yards. It was well-struck, but O’Malley might have done better.
And it was 4-0 with 20 minutes to go when Fletcher’s flick freed Assombalonga to sweep home his second goal from the edge of the penalty area.
And the Posh punishment wasn’t over as Fletcher made it 5-0 with a casual flick from a Wing cross four minutes from time.
Posh kept plugging away with Toney rattling the crossbar with a fierce strike from the final kick of a match that again highlighted the team’s defensive shortcomings.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jason Naismith, Ben White, Ryan Tafazolli, Joe Ward, Daniel Lafferty, Louis Reed (sub Callum Cooke, 73 mins), Alex Woodyard, Mark O’Hara (sub Matt Godden, 58 mins), Ivan Toney, Siriki Dembele (sub Jason Cummings, 80 mins).
Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Rhys Bennett, Tyler Denton, George Cooper.
Middlesbrough: Dimi Konstanopolous, Dael Fry, Daniel Ayala, George Friend, Paddy McNair, Grant Leadbitter, Rajiv Van La Parra (sub Lewis Wing, 46 mins), Marcus Tavernier (sub Harry Chapman, 73 mins), Ashley Fletcher, Rudy Gestede (sub Stephen Walker, 73 mins), Britt Assombalonga.
Unused substitutes: Andy Lonergan, Adam Clayton, Nathan Wood, Djed Spence.
Goals: Boro - Assombalonga (47 mins & 70 mins), Friend (49 mins), Wing (63 mins), Fletcher (86 mins).
Cautions: Posh - White (foul).
Boro - Leadbitter (foul).
Referee: James Linington 6.5
Attendance: 11,647 (Posh figure to come).